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6 Ways Will Smith's I Am Legend Sequel With Michael B. Jordan Could Actually Work

Will Smith walking down deserted street in I Am Legend
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

After the box office success of 2007’s I Am Legend, the possibility of both a sequel and prequel were floated to keep the story of Robert Neville alive. Neither project came to pass, and the story of Will Smith’s tragic hero/virologist seemed to be done and dusted. Yet somehow, almost 15 years after that original film, a sequel is back on the table, with Will Smith and Michael B. Jordan set to produce and star. 

Considering the ending to that first film, and what it meant for Smith’s Dr. Robert Neville, that’s a prospect that really needs some careful thinking in order to work. I’m still trying to figure out how the hell a sequel to I Am Legend is supposed to begin, and when even DJ Jazzy Jeff is questioning this concept, you know it’s time to think really hard about the next step. To address this concern, let’s take a look at both endings to the 2007 original, and try to figure out just how Will Smith can return in the wild wild world of the post-apocalypse.

Will Smith tears up in his lab in I Am Legend.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

The Two Endings Of Will Smith’s I Am Legend

While I Am Legend is a 15 year old movie at this point, it needs to be noted that we’re going to dive into the two endings director Francis Lawrence’s adaptation has to offer. Both outcomes stem from the third act climax, when Dr. Robert Neville is cornered in his lab with fellow survivors Anna (Alice Braga) and Ethan (Charlie Tahan). However, depending on which ending is considered canon going forward, the options for this sequel are going to be wildly different.

In the theatrical cut, Dr. Robert Neville finds a cure to the Krippen Virus that caused I Am Legend’s apocalypse, but sacrifices himself in a grenade blast. Sending Anna and Ethan on their way to find survivors, he gives them his cure data, and they’re taken in with a colony of survivors. However, in the alternate ending that wraps things up in a more pleasing manner, Robert survives to move on with his new friends, without a cure in hand.

Alice Braga smiles at Will Smith on a car ride in I Am Legend.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Build The Sequel Off Of The Alternate Ending

The fact that the alternate ending to I Am Legend even exists so readily seems to indicate that even Warner Bros understands how much better it is. With that in mind, the best strategy moving forward is probably to build the Will Smith/Michael B. Jordan-led sequel off of the “controversial” conclusion. As both endings are out in the open, the one true ending is still up for debate, and it’d make things a lot easier when it comes to bringing Will Smith back into the picture.

Will Smith in I Am Legend

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Retcon The Theatrical Ending With Will Smith’s Robert Neville Secretly Surviving

If we’re going to keep the theatrical ending from I Am Legend, presumably to reduce confusion among the film’s fans, then that could work in our favor as well. In this scenario, one of the ways this sequel could work is if Robert Neville somehow survives his brush with explosive death. Roaming through the wilds of New York, potentially still searching for a cure, the thrust of this story would be that Anna and Ethan return to the city to find the man that could hold the key to the future.

Will Smith in I Am Legend

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Robert Neville Is Now Shown Only In Flashbacks

Undoing an on-screen death can carry with it some unfortunate consequences to the story you’re trying to tell. While killing Robert Neville in I Am Legend felt like the wrong idea, the decision wasn’t made lightly. Keeping Will Smith in the picture, but maintaining the integrity of the ending that came before it, the sequel could use a number of framing devices to continue using flashbacks to Dr. Neville’s past. Of course, there’s now the question of how Michael B. Jordan will fit into this new I Am Legend continuation.

Michael B. Jordan stands stoically at night in Without Remorse.

(Image credit: Paramount/Skydance)

Someone From Robert Neville's Past Could Be I Am Legend 2's New Lead

While we only saw Dr. Robert Neville’s wife and daughter in the flashback sequences from the first I Am Legend, there’s a potential for family members and colleagues we never saw in the picture. Be it a son, a cousin or however Akiva Goldsman sees fit, Michael B. Jordan could be playing someone that was related to Robert. This is another potential framing device for those flashbacks, which further opens the door to an alternate flashback strategy.

Michael B. Jordan in Without Remorse

(Image credit: Amazon Studios)

Michael B. Jordan Is The Younger Robert Neville

Throwing it back to the earliest talks of I Am Legend’s potential franchise development, there were talks of both a prequel and sequel being kicked around. In the prequel, we would have seen Dr. Robert Neville navigating the world between the initial catastrophic outbreak of the Krippen Virus and the desolation we saw him inhabit in the film. Taking that idea one step further, flashbacks to young Robert Neville’s rising career as a military doctor/genius could be mixed in with the in-between years. With that play, Michael B. Jordan could be the younger Robert Neville and Will Smith could play the version more contemporary with the first film. 

Will Smith with a vampire

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

The Hemocytes Are Evolving Into More Intelligent Beings, With Michael B. Jordan As Their Leader

This is the idea I’m most proud of, as it would restore something from author Richard Matheson’s original novel that really made the original I Am Legend a chilling tale. Originally, the antagonists of the story were a race of vampires who had come to fear Robert Neville as a boogeyman of sorts. Seeing as he was hunting their kind down one by one, he was the minority in this new world order. While the film kept part of that idea, namely Dr. Neville hunting for test subjects in his race to a cure, the 'intelligent being' angle was ditched. 

What if we were told an entirely different spin on the story of I Am Legend, thanks to an evolved form of Hemocyte? Flashing back to Will Smith’s actions in the era of the first film, Michael B. Jordan’s character could be the leader of the New York creatures, trying to broker peace with humanity. Or, if we want to lean on Jordan’s ability to play a compelling fan favorite villain, the actor could be cast to play Neville’s literary nemesis Ben Cortman. Engaging in mind games with whatever survivors he encounters, a cat and mouse game could ensue, with a seriously creepy Jordan behind it all.

I’m still excited that Will Smith and Michael B. Jordan are in the process of bringing I Am Legend back to life. It doesn’t feel like a property Warner Bros would bring back for no good reason, as its moderate box office success doesn’t exactly peg it as an IP that makes for an easy cash-in. We’ll see what happens in the future, but for now, we’ll have to hunt down adventure in the 2022 movie releases as we wait for the mystery of I Am Legend 2 to unfold.   

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.